The domestic goat (Capra Aegagrus Hircus) is a subspecies of the wild variety domesticated from Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. It is a member of the family Bovidae and is closely related to Sheep as both are in the goat - antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat, which has the distinction of being one of the oldest domesticated species that is used for milk, meat, hair and skin. According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization survey, there were more than 924 million live goats around the globe in 2011. Female goats are referred to as “Does” or “Nannies”; intact males are called “bucks” or “billies” and juveniles of both sexes are called “kids”. In our part of the world, this extraordinary mammal is known to all and sundry as ‘Bakra’ or ‘Bakri’ depending on its gender.

The ‘Bakra’ provides us ‘carnivores’ with meat, while the ‘Bakri’ tends to get a reprieve as it reproduces ‘kids’ in pairs and provides healthy low fat milk. The influence this animal has on our society is so profound that its name has found a respectable place in Urdu and Punjabi vocabulary. For example making a ‘Bakra’ out of someone refers to duping somebody frivolously or calling someone ‘Bakri’ is likely to spill blood since the comparison is intended to label the target of this remark as a coward and therefore an insult.

In a bygone era, the approach of the Annual Eid ul Azha festival raised the status of the ‘Bakra’ to a VVIP, but as years went by, this was diluted by the appearance of the ‘Bull’ and the ‘Camel’. Acquiring an animal for sacrificial purposes (thanks to inflation) has now become an ‘art of war’, where the ‘seller’ and the ‘buyer’ lock their wits and patience in battle with millions of rupees at stake. The whole process also involves ‘brinkmanship’, as both parties wait till the very hour of the sacrifice to buy or sell their stock at some advantage.

If one is to gain the upper hand in this particular ‘Warcraft’, one must (amongst other things) make use of deception. In simpler words one must not flaunt social status by being driven up in a chauffeured BMW or Merc, for the end result is certain to be financially disadvantageous. Even if you do not own an expensive symbol of wealth, you are advised the park your jalopy some distance from the ‘Mandi’ and foot it to your objective. This will work eight out of ten times – the two probabilities of failure are based on my personal experience, where my tactics of an invisible approach were concisely defeated.

I parked my car, at least half a kilometer away from the mixed flock of goats and bovines in an endeavor to mix with the crowd. Little did I anticipate that the enemy must have thrown out skirmishers to give early warning of an approaching opportunity, for I had barely reached the first bunch of ‘bakras’, when a shrill voice sounded the alarm, “Oye! Eh Gaddi Wala e!” (He is the guy with the car). One hour later, I returned with two goats bought at atrociously high prices, searching in vain for the ‘chota’, who had stabbed me in the back.

The ‘bakra’ buying frenzy has produced some interesting side effects. One is the birth of a new breed of dentists, who are likely to find their niche in making dentures to fit under age ‘bakras’, making them eligible for the sacrifice. If you think I have gone ‘cuckoo’ watch the recorded television news track that covered this enterprising incident.

As sacrificial animals grow in size so do the risks of a ‘runaway’ sacrifice. Just last year, the locomotive sized bull in the neighborhood decided that he did not want to come under the knife. This otherwise docile creature broke his tether with ease and legged it down the road followed by a crowd of amateur butchers brandishing the tools of their trade. When last I saw them they were disappearing round the bend in the road. It was later rumored that the beast had disappeared forcing the frantic owners to find a replacement forcing me to comment that ‘somebody’s loss has to be someone else’s gain’. Whatever be the trend, I will continue to prefer the ‘bakra’ over any other beast for the simple reason that one has never heard of a runaway goat.